Dendara – 2015

© Mission Dendara

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


Yann Tristant (Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

How Eveha Participates

Archaeological anthropology

The excavations which took place from mid-November to mid-December 2015 focused on a previously unexplored area of 550m² (fig. 1). The data recorded provided us with rich information, as the 10 tombs and funerary monuments uncovered span the majority of the occupation periods of the necropolis, each displaying a different layout and treatment of the dead.


The Protodynastic Period is represented by tomb B1120 (fig. 2). This structure comprises a small wooden chest oriented south-west/north-east, inside of which was placed the body of a woman in the foetal position, on her left side. This funerary architecture and type of deposit are already well documented for this early period (Vaudou 2008).
The shaft tomb M1155, which is still being excavated, and the altar MoM1133 date from the First Intermediate Period (Eleventh Dynasty) (fig. 3). The architecture of shaft tombs M1156 and M1147, as well as their proximity to M1155, suggest that they were contemporary. The altars, built above an underground burial chamber accessed by a shaft, are characteristic of this period.
Monument M1104 (fig. 4) consists of 10 shaft tombs and dates from the end of the First Intermediate Period and the early Middle Kingdom. The depth of the shafts increases from the outer structures towards the centre. The deepest shafts (B1107, B1106, B1139, B1140 et B1148) contain an underground chamber closed by a mud brick wall. The disturbance of the monument during the Roman period led to the systematic displacement of all of the bodies buried in the shafts. It is therefore impossible to describe in greater detail the treatment of the dead during this period. The two burials of individuals laid on their backs with their heads to the west, found in demolition layers, appear to date from the Ptolemaic or Roman period.
The four stairway tombs excavated during this season (M1101, M1112, M1152 et M1157) date to the Ptolemaic Dynasty. While three of these were excavated by C. Fisher in the early 20th century, structure 1112 (fig. 5) revealed the mummified remains of three individuals, laid on their backs with their heads to the south (fig. 6 and 7). The mummification technique using strips of cloth and the position of the bodies are typical of the last centuries BC. Furthermore, the stratigraphy enables us to determine that the deceased placed in sarcophagus 1112.08 was buried before the two others, who where placed on rows of blocks. The relatively short use of this tomb may indicate that it was a family grave.


Very young individuals found in the demolition layers of the burial chamber of shaft 1107 and tomb 1112 demonstrate the reuse of earlier tombs during the Roman period. These were probably opportunistic burials.


This excavation season therefore enabled the exploration of a new area, starting with zones previously excavated by Fisher, so as to ensure no structures were missed. The tombs discovered span the principal periods of occupation of the necropolis and the main architectural types. Although they are often disturbed, these tombs – whether monumental or not – suggest a strong potential for finding intact structures in this area. The high level of preservation of the skeletons (at least 31 individuals recorded), organic materials (wooden chests, cloth etc.) and artefacts in general is very encouraging for the next excavation season.